Cabinet Conclusions


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Photograph taken in April 1953 of 19 Cabinet members sitting around an oblong table. Cabinet in session
Privy Council Chamber
April 1953. PA-196460

This research tool provides access to descriptions and digitized copies of the Cabinet Conclusions from 1944 to 1979.


Cabinet Conclusions are the records that summarize discussions and decisions of federal Cabinet meetings. These documents are prepared for every meeting of Cabinet by the Secretary to the Cabinet, who is also the Clerk of the Privy Council. Although also known as Cabinet minutes, they are not verbatim transcripts of the discussion. They do, however, often reflect the nature of the debate and discussion held at the Cabinet table (for examples, see Keywords Listed by Year).

On this page

The Cabinet

Cabinet is formed and led by the Prime Minister and it is Canadian practice to include all current ministers in the membership of Cabinet. Cabinet formulates government policy and priorities, and is responsible for the administration of all government departments, for the creation and implementation of government legislation, and for government financial policy. Although Cabinet has no basis in law for its existence, it acts formally as the Privy Council, using various legal instruments, including Orders-in-Council, as its means of conducting business. The Privy Council was established by the British North America Act, 1867 to aid and advise the Government of Canada, with the members of Cabinet being a sub-set of the Privy Council.

Cabinet meets most regularly while Parliament is in session, but it also meets during breaks and throughout the summer. It meets more frequently when an urgent situation has arisen that must be dealt with immediately and may meet specifically to address only this one issue. Regular meetings, however, can deal with a surprisingly broad range of topics, both domestic and international.

The records

A set of Cabinet Conclusions is prepared for each meeting and is introduced by a list of those in attendance and an agenda. The list of those present identifies the ministers who were at the meeting, and identifies their portfolio. It also identifies the Secretary of the Cabinet present at the time and other officials attending any particular meeting. The agenda lists the items of discussion and indicates the point in the document upon which the discussion starts. Items of discussion can be very short or can cover numerous pages. Similarly, agendas may list just one item when a single urgent issue needed to be discussed, or they may be extensive and list many items for discussion in one meeting. Both agendas and lists of attendees can be queried using this research tool.

The Privy Council Office, which acts as a Secretariat to the Cabinet, only began to record Cabinet Conclusions in 1944. Because the federal Cabinet functions in secret, the concept of documenting discussions and decisions was initially seen as a compromise to Cabinet security. However, with the outbreak of the Second World War, the Cabinet War Committee became the defacto Cabinet, and the need to document decisions took precedence over other concerns. In 1944, this practice was instituted for the full Cabinet. While there were no formal records of Cabinet before this time, a search of the papers of Prime Ministers and Ministers will often lead to information relating to Cabinet discussions.

Cabinet documents

The discussions in Cabinet reference background reports or memoranda (Cabinet Documents) that relate to a particular topic or issue. These references appear in the following format: Cab.Doc. 389-71.

Cabinet Documents are not available online; however, they can be retrieved and consulted on site, or you may order photocopies by using the Copy services order form.

To retrieve a Cabinet Document, use the file number (C-20-5) as a keyword in Collection Search in combination with Finding Aid 2-15 and year of the Cabinet Document. 

Search help

Searching keywords

Enter a term in the Keywords field to find any terms used by the Secretary to the Cabinet in the title of the Cabinet Conclusions. Note: It is not a full-text search of the Cabinet Conclusions.

Browse the Keywords Listed by Year for prominent issues or events for a given year, or consult the Cabinet Agendas to determine the possible terms used in the actual documents.

Unless you are looking for a specific record, conduct your search using limited terms. Truncate if necessary; * replaces a character, a chain of characters, to allow for possible misspelling.

For example:

  • If you type Sm*th, you will obtain Smith, Smyth.
  • If you type finan*, you will obtain finance, finances, financial, etc.

Searching dates

The Exact Date field can be used to locate items using the yyyy-mm-dd format.

  • Enter 1956-10-18, to get a list of items bearing this specific date, if there a to get a list of items relating to that month.
  • Enter 1956* to get a list of items relating to that year.

Searching agendas

The Cabinet agendas have been digitized and are available for consultation through this database. To retrieve all of the agendas for every meeting currently available online, select under Type of Record: Agenda Only.

To retrieve an agenda for a specific date use both the Exact Date field and select Agenda Only in the Type of Record field.

  • Enter 1970-01-29 to obtain the agenda for any meeting(s) that took place that day.
  • Enter 1970-01* to obtain the agenda for any meeting(s) that took place that month.
  • Enter 1970* to obtain the agenda for any meeting(s) that took place that year.

Searching records of attendance

The attendance records for each Cabinet meeting list which Ministers were present and identifies the portfolio they held at the time.

To retrieve a record of attendance for a specific date use both the Date field and select Attendance Only in the Type of Record field.

  • Enter 1970-01-29 to obtain the attendance record for any meeting(s) that took place that day.
  • Enter 1970-01* to obtain the attendance record for any meeting(s) that took place that month.
  • Enter 1970* to obtain the attendance record for any meeting(s) that took place that year.

What language should I be searching in?

Cabinet agendas prior to 1970 can only be searched in English. From 1970 on, descriptive entries have been translated before entry into the database, therefore, items can be searched in both French and English.

For example:

  • A search for "financial assistance" will retrieve all instances of these words as they appear in the entire database.
  • A search for "aide financière" will only retrieve items from 1970 and later.

The majority of the Cabinet Conclusions and surrounding documents are available only in English, as this was the primary working language of the government.

How to interpret the results

A successful query will return a list of results, the default is 30 items per page.

Each item number links to a record with a digitized image or images (if available) of the Cabinet Conclusions and the following fields:

  • Title
  • Microfilm Reel Number
  • Meeting Date
  • Reference: This archival information includes an Access Code number, described below.
  • Item Number

Access code numbers

Restricted - by creator. Access to records is governed by an agreement between the creating institution and Library and Archives Canada. Information is available after an appropriate period of time has passed.
Restricted - part of the documents are open on microfilm. Some documents were removed before microfilming. The microfilm is available in the Reading Room.
As these records have been microfilmed, the original records are withdrawn from circulation.
Restricted. Records contain information that currently qualifies for exemption under the provisions of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
These records were originally restricted by the federal government's former access policy as defined in the Cabinet Access Directive (1977) and must be reviewed in accordance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act before being made available for research.
Restricted. The terms of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act apply to these records and they must be reviewed in accordance with the provisions of the legislation before being made available for research.
Restricted. These records were created by a now defunct government institution to which the Access to Information and Privacy legislation did not apply. They will be reviewed in a manner consistent with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
Restricted - by the Privacy Act. These records contain information that may qualify for exemption under the provisions of the Privacy Act.
Open. Records are available for consultation without restriction.
To be determined.
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